The book on the Center Moriches boys basketball season had just closed, but David Falco and company spoke confidently about their window of opportunity for success at the state level and how they believe it remains open.
“Our starting lineup is mostly juniors and a sophomore,” said junior Falco, who had 14 points and five rebounds in a 62-49 loss to Briarcliff in a state Class B southeast regional final Saturday afternoon at Pace University in Pleasantville. “So next year is looking good. We’re excited for the future.”
Sean Braithwaite’s three-pointer from the top of the key with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter cut Briarcliff’s lead to 39-29. But Briarcliff continued to keep Center Moriches (21-4), the defending Class B southeast regional champion, at arm’s length down the stretch. An acrobatic layup by Anthony Panarese with 28 seconds left in the quarter put the Red Devils behind 43-31 entering the fourth.
Foul trouble plagued Braithwaite (17 points, six rebounds, two blocks) throughout. He picked up his second foul late in the first and fourth with 4:27 left in the third. Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas kept Braithwaite on the floor.
“You’ve got to roll the dice at that point,” Thomas said.
Center Moriches was unable to close within single digits in the final period. A three-pointer from senior Troy Goode at the 3:09 mark cut the deficit to 52-42, but the Bears promptly responded with a layup, a defensive stop and two free throws to widen their advantage to 14 with 2:04 left and seal a trip to the state Final Four.
“We left everything we had on the court,” said Goode, who recorded 10 points and six assists in his final high school game. “I’m very proud after we won regionals last year and made it this far this year.”
Center Moriches fell into a double-digit hole early in the second period on a layup by Jackson Gonseth (18 points, eight rebounds). But the Red Devils utilized an 8-2 run behind two threes and a layup from Emond Frazier to pull within 25-21 with 3:30 to go before falling behind at halftime, 31-23.
“I thought we needed more of a sense of urgency,” Thomas said. “But overall I’m proud of the effort. We’re still champions and unfortunately we came up a little short today.”
Like Falco, Braithwaite sees a window of opportunity.
“We’re gonna work hard in the offseason, come back here and get back up to Binghamton,” Braithwaite said.